For anyone who’s ever been in a band, it’s hard to say that guitar players don’t get enough attention. After all, if polled honestly, most guitar players would admit that it was a desire for attention or fame that got them to pick up their first six-stringed beauty. Yet, there are some guitarists that just don’t get nearly enough credit for the work they put in, no matter how amazingly talented or successful their bands are. Here now are five of the most unbelievably underrated rock guitarists of all time.
George Harrison – I’m sure you’re either baffled by or even angered by this assertion. Think about it though. While George gets plenty of credit for being one-fourth of The Beatles, arguably the greatest rock band of all time, he doesn’t get credit for what is maybe his most important contribution to popular music, outside of his songs. George made being the lead guitarist a “thing.” Sure, there were other soloists in bands before, but it was George’s sensibilities, the way he could not just play a solo, but could add an additional counter-melody or texture that made being a lead guitar player so popular.
Greg Brown – Brown is probably more suited to the traditional title of “Underrated” than Harrison. He’s certainly not a household name; unless you’re a huge fan of the band Cake. Greg was the guitarist for the band on their most popular record “Fashion Nugget,” and left the band afterwards. His bluesy and jangly, slightly over-driven guitar tone was a hallmark of the band’s sound, and without it “Fashion Nugget” may not have been nearly as successful.
Dean Ween – Ween is a band that you almost cannot describe in words. They are as eclectic as they are genius. Playing in genres as diverse as country, heavy metal, funk and everything in between, each member of the band is solidly talented and brings a host of skills to the table. Dean’s guitar playing is integral to the ability of the group to seamlessly move through genres without losing credibility. Oh, and their songs are pretty damned funny to boot.
Davey Johnstone – He’s played with Meatloaf and Alice Cooper, but it’s his work with Sir Elton John that will always solidify his place in the pantheon of rock recordings. One evidence of Davey’s belonging in the same discussion as Jimi, or Stevie Ray? Listen to “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” or pretty much any song on any Elton record in the 1970s. Part of being a great guitarist is knowing when you can hang back and enhance the mix rather than jump out front, and Johnstone had that discerning taste of when to take the spotlight and when not to. Take his presence away from any of the great Elton John songs, and you’re definitely going to miss something.
Beck – Just like Ween, Beck has shown more musical versatility in his records than most other musicians could dream of. A huge part of that versatility comes from Beck’s own eclectic and varied talents as a musician. He definitely has help in the studio from other musicians, but most of what you hear from the guitars is beck himself. The flapping, detuned hook in “Loser,” the song that put him on the map shows that Beck knows how to play perfectly while playing loose and free.